OK, the pain has subsided, I can now turn the Eye to wrapping up the Penguins’ playoff run and look at what their offseason holds. We’ll deviate from the norm at the end to pay tribute to a friend who is leaving us.
After an AMAZING triple-OT win in game 5, it seemed momentum was on Pittsburgh’s favor going into Game 6. Unfortunately, the Wings took an early lead, then Fleury gave up one of the few weak goals he allowed in the entire playoff run, making it 3-1. The Pens got a goal with 2 minutes to play and very nearly tied it, but in the end Detroit was the better team and deserved the Cup.
Now it’s time for GM Ray Shero to earn his pay. Among the prominent unrestricted free-agents are Marian Hossa, Brooks Orpik, Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, and Gary Roberts. Marc-Andre Fleury is a restricted free agent, and Evgeni Malkin’s contract needs extended after July 1 as well to prevent him from becoming a restricted FA next summer. Roberts is already gone; his agent announced Roberts will not retire, and a $2.5 million 4th-liner who is injury prone is not a luxury Pittsburgh can afford. Roberts was a great addition and became almost a folk hero among Pens fans (I saw a sign that said “Gary Roberts doesn’t need to wear a watch, he decided what time it is”), but the cold fact is he’s quite replaceable in terms of production.
Hossa is the prime target Shero wants to retain; however, his agent announced this week that Hossa will test free agency July 1, meaning he’s as good as gone. Hopefully Shero will make Orpik priority 1 at this point – his skating and physical play are in short supply on the Pens’ blue line. I’m torn on Malone, he had a real breakout season but he’s already 27 and we may have seen his peak. I’m fairly certain some other team will blow him away with a $5+ million per year offer, and in that case the Pens should say goodbye and wish him well. There will be plenty of talented wingers, like Petr Sykora last summer, who would relish a chance to play with Crosby or Malkin.
Fleury isn’t going anywhere, the team took him to arbitration strictly to buy both sides more time to negotiate a long-term deal. Look for him to get a 4-5 year deal at about $4 million per. Malkin also has indicated he wants to stay, and his agent says the framework of a deal is in place. Look for him to get a 5-6 year deal at $8 million or so per, which is well below what he’d command on the open market next summer.
So, in summation, the team will look a bit different next fall but the core of the team remains intact, and I trust Shero to make a few key signings to keep the team near the top of the Eastern Conference. We’ll revisit the Penguins in August after the signings are done and see where they stand.
Now, I’d like to talk about an experience I had last winter, and a friend who helped me immensely. I was asked by a radio station to broadcast some wrestling, and I was excited at the prospect – play-by-play was something I’d long wanted to try. However, the station wanted me to do it alone, and I had been away from wrestling for a few years. I arrived for the first match nervous and unsure of myself. Jeff Aveni asked who my partner was, when I said I didn’t have one he said “I’ll get Jay Jones to help you- Jay has been wanting to do this for awhile”. I was happy for the help, of course, but we were 20 minutes before the match, with no discussion about how to work this – suffice it to say I was even MORE nervous now. If the chemistry wasn’t there with Jay, the whole broadcast could be a bust. Jay came up and we quickly discussed the match and got down to it.
Once the match began, we worked BEAUTIFULLY together. Jay had a wealth of knowledge and always knew when to insert a key fact or something he had seen in the wrestling room, while I carried most of the play-by-play action. After the match it was clear to me we were onto something, and I asked him to work the next match with me as well. As the season progressed we just had a ball – Clearfield was doing well, we were learning how to work together even better, it was just a great experience. After districts our broadcasts ended, but I looked forward to next season knowing I had a great broadcast partner to work with.
As many of you know, Jay is a Methodist minister and a few months ago he was told he would be transferred to Bloomsburg in July. I know I speak for many others when I say he will be sorely missed here, not only by the wrestling team and fans but by the entire community. Jay touched a lot of people’s lives, and while we will miss him we won’t forget him. If I have to broadcast solo this season, I’ll do it with confidence thanks to the lessons I learned from Jay last winter. Jay, thank you and best of luck in Bloomsburg.
Dave Glass lives in Clearfield with his wife, Suzanne, and their six children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org